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The trend towards wearable devices is set to change many aspects of our day-to-day life, and it would seem cycling is no different. One device that has attracted media attention in recent months is the Cliiiimb Pro, a sunglasses-mounted audio/visual system that claims to help you improve your personal best times (and beat your friends) on your favourite Strava segments by providing real-time feedback. In this post CyclingTips editor Matt de Neef puts the Cliiimb Pro through its paces.
Setting it up
The concept behind 4iiii Innovations’ Cliiiimb Pro is actually pretty simple: you wear the unit when you’re trying to beat a PB on a Strava segment and the unit gives you real-time feedback to tell you how you’re going. Getting it all set up is a little more involved.
The Cliiimb Pro system consists of:
– a Sportiiiis unit, which attaches to your sunglasses and provides real-time audio and visual feedback
– the Viiiiva, a heartrate monitor with ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart connectivity, and
– an iOS app called Cliiiimb.
The system comes boxed with a couple of quickstart guides — one for the Sportiiiis unit and one for the overall Cliiiimb Pro system — but I found myself heading online to get more information about how to set things up and how the various pieces of the puzzle fit together.
With that done, I headed to the iOS App Store and downloaded the free Cliiiimb app for my phone. But when I loaded that up I found out I needed 4iiii account … which would require downloading and installing a separate iOS app.
With the 4iiii app installed as well, I set about creating a profile. I entered my name, a password, my gender, age and weight and from there I could go back to the Cliiiimb app and log in.
Once logged in to the Cliiiimb app I was prompted to sign in to my Strava account as well. With that done I was finally able to start using the Cliiiimb Pro to help me take some Strava KOMs. Or try to anyway.
The process is simple: you press “Segments” in the Cliiiimb app, hit the “+” button then use the map to find nearby segments that you want to target. Click on the drop pin to bring up the segment, then hit “Add this segment”. From there you’ll be shown the Strava leaderboard and asked to pick a goal time.
Pick the KOM/QOM leader to have a crack at the title, pick your own time to attempt a new PB, or pick your mate’s time to challenge for bragging rights. You can repeat this process for as many segments as you like, adding them to a list of target segments.
Whenever you get within 50m or so of a segment on your list, the Cliiiimb Pro will say “Segment approaching” in your ear. If you start riding that segment, the system will track your progress, giving you updates along the way.
It’s worth mentioning that the Cliiiimb Pro only gives you feedback on segments you’ve pre-selected. It doesn’t latch on to every single Strava segment you come across, which is a bit of a mixed blessing.
On the one hand it stops the unit from saying “Segment approaching” in your ear near constantly — think of how annoying a Beach Road ride would be, with its hundreds of duplicate segments — but on the other hand it removes some of the spontaneity from the experience. If you’re out for a ride and decide to have a crack at a particular Strava segment on a whim, and you want the Cliiiimb Pro to give you real-time feedback, you need to stop, pull out your phone, add the segment to the target list, stow your phone and get going again.
Riding with the Cliiiimb Pro
As you can see from the feature image above, the Sportiiiis unit attaches to the arm of your sunglasses while the unit’s “flexible boom” bends around to sit in front of the lens of your sunglasses. The clip that attaches the Sportiiiis to your sunglasses feels a little flimsy and I worried about breaking it every time I installed it. The system comes with cable ties to securely attach the Sportiiiis but I was reluctant to do this — what if I’d attached it to my regular sunnies but it was an overcast day and I wanted to wear clear shades?
The Sportiiiis’ flexible boom contains seven LEDs which can be used to give you real-time feedback on your heartrate, your speed, your cadence or your power (from sensors connected via ANT+).
To set this up you install the Sportiiiis Configuration Utility software (for Windows and Mac) and connect the Sportiiiis unit via USB. You use the software to configure up to seven zones for heartrate, speed, cadence and power — a target zone and three above and below — and assign a coloured light on the LED boom for each zone.
When you’re riding, you can choose which data you want the Sportiiiis to give you updates on and the lights on the boom will flash according to which zone you’re in.
You can also configure the unit to give you audio updates — as often as every 30 seconds or as seldom as every 15 minutes — telling you what your current heartrate/speed/cadence/power is, and whether you’re above, below or inside your target zone.
While testing the unit over a number of rides I found it hard to pick out the colour and location of the lights on the Sportiiiis boom without taking my focus off the road. I wouldn’t go so far as to say this was dangerous — no more so than looking down at a Garmin head unit, for example — but having to refocus my gaze to something so close to my eye, just to see which heartrate zone I was in, didn’t seem worth the bother. Particularly when I could just look down at my Garmin and get the same information.
If I was going to use the unit for targeting a particular zone, I’d be happy just using audio feedback. Incidentally, there’s a version of the unit called the Cliiiimb (i.e. without the “Pro”) that is audio-only for US$70 less ($129 vs $199).
Using the unit
The Sportiiiis only has one real button to speak of, the “Multi-Function Button”, which you use to turn the unit on and off and cycle between options including mode (running or bike — you can set up different zones for each activity), pairing (to pair the unit with available sensors) and volume (how loud the audio updates are).
To move between options you press and hold the multi-function button and release when you get to the desired option. I found this to be a little fiddly and would often cycle right passed the options I wanted, having to loop back to the start as a result.
There’s also the so-called “TipTap” which is a sensor on the side of the unit which responds to touch. You tap the unit once to get an update on your current heartrate, power, cadence or speed (depending on what you’re targeting) and tap the unit twice to rotate through different paired sensors.
I found the TipTap to be overly sensitive to begin with — I’d set it off whenever I adjusted my sunnies, for example — but you can configure the sensitivity and after I while I started to find it useful. It’s particularly handy if you’re using the Cliiiimb Pro to track your efforts on a long climb and you’ve only got audio updates scheduled for every few minutes. If you want to hear your current status, just tap the unit.
Tracking your progress
But the biggest drawcard of the Cliiiimb Pro system, in my opinion, is its segment-tracking feature. Having populated my segments list with a handful of my favourite segments I set off to see whether I could set some new best times.
As well as the “Segment approaching” announcement mentioned earlier, the Sportiiiis will also say “Segment started”, “One quarter complete”, “Halfway mark”, “Three quarters complete”, “Go go go!!!” — as you’re approaching the end of the segment — and “Segment complete”. Crucially, the unit will also give you periodic updates on how you are tracking compared to your goal time, with “Ahead x seconds” or, as I heard far more often, “Behind y seconds”. As mentioned, you can also touch the unit to get a progress update at any time.
According to this promo video you also get a heartwarming “You’re awesome!” when you beat your goal time, but I didn’t get that, even when I smashed a PB on one of my target segments.
The LED lighting boom also gives you visual feedback on how you’re going in the segment, but I was disinclined to refocus my gaze on the lights while deep in the hurtbox, instead preferring to rely on audio updates.
Recording a ride
The Cliiiimb app allows you to record all the data from your ride, using information supplied by connected ANT+ devices. Smartphones can’t connect directly via ANT+ so instead the Bluetooth Smart-equipped Viiiiva heartrate monitor acts as bridge, connecting other ANT+ devices through to your smartphone.
Once you finish your ride you can stop the activity in the app, email the .fit file to yourself then upload it to Strava. The process seems to work fine, and there’s even a screen in the Cliiiimb app to show your data in realtime, but I preferred using my Garmin as I normally would. You do need to start an activity in order for the Cliiiimb to start detecting segments, but you can easily stop the activity after you’ve done your efforts, and just upload the file from your Garmin or other head unit as normal.
Impressions and reflections
As a Strava junkie and someone that loves to do a bit of climbing, the Cliiiimb Pro piqued my interest as soon as I heard about it. I like the idea of getting real-time updates on how I’m tracking on a particular segment, and it certainly beats taping time checks to your top tube.
For people that own a Garmin head unit, the Cliiiimb Pro might seem a little superfluous — you can already record your rides using your Garmin, and Garmin’s Virtual Partner feature (depending on the unit you have) already allows you to load up a goal time on a particular ride or segment and compare your progress on screen.
But there are some benefits to the Cliiiimb Pro, including audio feedback, and the fact that adding segments is comparatively easier using the Cliiiimb Pro (via smartphone), compared with having to load up a GPS file via computer before leaving home, in the case of Virtual Partner. Plus, the Cliiiimb Pro is only US$199.99 compared with roughly twice that for a Garmin 510.
I found setting the unit up a little more involved than it might have been, and it would be great if there was only one iOS app to install rather than two. I reckon the quickstart guides also need to include more information about how to get everything set up and all the various bits talking to one another.
The question I keep asking myself is: would I use the Cliiiimb Pro beyond this review? I think I would, but only occasionally. If I was heading out to a mountain with the sole aim of trying to set a new PB then I might take the unit along, to give me audio updates on how I’m progressing. But I wouldn’t use the unit for the majority of rides.
For one thing I would be worried about copping too much stick from my mates. We’re still some way off headsets being a common sight out on the road and while we might get there one day, the unit does look a little unusual and out of place at the moment. But, of course, this is merely a personal observation and many people will be more than happy to embrace this technology.
I know Bluetooth Smart is supposed to be very energy efficient but I’m always slightly hesitant when it come to products that rely on your mobile phone battery (not to mention reception) to function properly. I worry about my phone’s battery being drained and not having enough juice to call out in the case of an emergency. But that could well just be a personal hang-up rather than any kind of justifiable criticism.
Cycling purists will likely hate this product — “what ever happened to just going for a ride and enjoying it?!” — but I’m excited by this sort of tech and the sort of thing it might lead to. I’m looking forward to seeing where the intersection of cycling and wearable devices takes us and I think the Cliiiimb Pro is an interesting step down that path. And at roughly AUD$200 it’s well worth a look.
For more information about the Cliiiimb Pro or to buy online, head to the 4iiii website.